Maintaining a positive attitude towards menopause will help a woman cope with many menopausal symptoms, but it takes more than a positive attitude to protect her from developing osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is a condition that affects the bones, causing them to become weak and brittle. This weakness makes the bones more susceptible to fractures, and can also result in height decrease and/or a humped back.
Osteoporosis is directly linked to menopause. It is estimated that more than 50 million American woman aged 45 and older are at risk of developing osteoporosis. Furthermore, research suggests that almost half of all women 60 and over will experience at least one fracture related to the disease. In addition, the average postmenopausal woman will lose approximately 10% of her bone mass within the first five years following menopause.
Why does osteoporosis typically occur in menopausal women? Estrogen is vital for aiding cells in building and maintaining strong, healthy bones. Thus, during menopause, the decrease in estrogen levels causes cell building bones to become less active. The result is in an increase in bone loss, because the bones are deteriorating faster than they can be rebuilt.
However, not every woman experiencing menopause will develop osteoporosis. Those who are at a higher risk are women with a peak bone mass that is already weakened from lack of calcium and vitamin D, and/or who have a family history of the disease.
Are their any signs or symptoms of osteoporosis? Unfortunately there are no warning signs you can watch for. Osteoporosis is a silent and fast moving disease that is usually not diagnosed until a person suffers a fracture.
Therefore, since osteoporosis isn’t usually detected until it’s too late; the best ways a woman can reduce her risk of developing the disease after menopause, is to eat a calcium rich diet and engage in regular exercise, or seek medical treatment.
The following are some ways to help prevent and treat osteoporosis:
Calcium and vitamin D – Women who are menopausal and postmenopausal require 1500 mg of calcium daily (if taking estrogen only 1200 mg is required). Calcium comes from a variety of foods, but is exceptionally rich in dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheese.
Vitamin D is essential for maintaining healthy bones because it helps them absorb calcium. Women between the ages 51 – 70 need 400 units of vitamin D daily, while women over 70 require 600 units. The best sources for Vitamin D include the sun (15-20 minutes of unprotected exposure) and vitamin d-fortified milk (8 oz. = 100 units).
Since the average woman fails to ingest the significant amount of calcium or vitamin D that is required, many doctors will prescribe supplements to help ensure they receive the necessary daily doses of each.
Exercise – Engaging in regular exercise can help prevent osteoporosis. Exercising for 30 – 40 minutes every other day is highly recommended. The reason is because the right physical activity, such as weight bearing (exercises including fast walking, jogging, aerobics, dancing), stretching (exercises such as Yoga and Pilates), and strength training (exercises that involve the use of weights to strengthen and build muscle), can help improve bone mass and slow down osteoporosis.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) – this is a medical treatment that replaces the estrogen a woman’s body no longer produces. HRT slows down, and can even stop bone mass reduction.
Other medical treatments – Additional medical treatments include: bisphophonates, strontium ranelate, and SERM’s (selective oestrogen receptor modulators).
There is no time like the present to start reducing your risk of osteoporosis. Just make sure you talk to your doctor before starting any treatment.